Biden-Harris Administration Announces $5.5 Million in Brownfield Grants to Houston Land Bank Through Investing in America Agenda

DALLAS, TEXAS (May 23, 2024)  –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced $5.5 million in grants from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to expedite the assessment and cleanup of brownfield sites in Houston while advancing environmental justice. These investments, through EPA’s Brownfields Multipurpose, Assessment, and Cleanup (MAC) Grant Programs and Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) Grant Programs, will help transform once-polluted, vacant, and abandoned properties into community assets, while helping to create good jobs and spur economic revitalization in overburdened communities.

The Houston Land Bank will receive two grants: an assessment grant for $500,000 and a cleanup grant for $5 million. The assessment grant will be used to inventory sites and conduct three to seven Phase I and nine Phase II environmental site assessments, and to develop two cleanup plans and one reuse plan, and support community engagement activities. The cleanup grant will be used at the former City of Houston Velasco Incinerator Property on N. Velasco Street, which is contaminated with heavy metals, PCBs, volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, and dioxins. Grant funds also will be used to conduct community engagement activities.

“Far too many communities across America have suffered the harmful economic and health consequences of living near polluted brownfield sites,” said President Joe Biden. “I’ve long believed that people who’ve borne the burden of pollution should be the first to see the benefits of new investment. Under my Administration, we are making that a reality by ensuring the historic resources from my Investing in America agenda reach communities that need it most. I am proud that my Administration is helping Philadelphia clean up and transform this area into an economic engine, while tackling a longstanding environmental injustice and creating good-paying jobs.”

“President Biden sees contaminated sites and blighted areas as an opportunity to invest in healthier, revitalized communities,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “That’s why he secured historic funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, supercharging EPA’s Brownfields program to clean up contaminated properties in overburdened communities and bring them back into productive use.” 

“With experience and expertise, partners like the Houston Land Bank are vital to putting EPA’s Brownfields funding to work quickly and effectively,” said Regional Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance. “With more funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Land Bank will be able to tackle big projects and make Houston cleaner and healthier for everyone.”

“This grant we are announcing resulted from the work of many of us as members of Congress on environmental justice issues. Specifically, the Brownfields Grant Program was funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which is helping communities create safer, cleaner, greener, and more accessible transportation systems. As a member of the House Committee on Budget I have long advocated to bring federal dollars back to the 18th Congressional District and improve the lives of my constituents,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18). “I have worked with the Biden Administration on implementing President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which sets a goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to communities marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.  The first Houston Landbank Brownfields Grant, totaling $5,000,000, will be used at the Former Velasco Incinerator Property located in the 18th Congressional District at Zero North Velasco Street in Houston, Texas. This site was an incinerator facility where municipal waste from across the city was burned and is now contaminated with heavy metals and dangerous chemicals. The second Houston Landbank Brownfields Grant, totaling $500,000, will be used to conduct environmental site assessments and develop clean up plans in Houston’s Northeast and East End neighborhoods, which includes Settegast, Kashmere Gardens, and Trinity Gardens. Through my representational work, I led efforts to directly engage the EPA on frontline environmental challenges facing residents of my district. I called a community meeting that brought all sides to a discussion on the creosote contaminations of Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens, which led to my work for a cancer study of the impacted area. That study resulted in three reports each revealing a new cancer cluster involving residents of the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens area. I invited EPA Administrator Regan to Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in the 18th Congressional District to visit the site of a proposed concrete crusher plant that would harm patients and nearby residents. I have brought attention to these issues and I am committed to improve the health and wellbeing of my constituents. In 2023, the EPA launched a historic survey of the impacted areas of the 18th Congressional District to inform the public and the agency on past risk factors for health and safety. Today, this work continues, and it is important that the community participate in this soil sample survey in order for the EPA to collect accurate and complete data. I applaud President Biden and EPA Administrator Regan for joining me in bringing this grant opportunity to the 18th Congressional District and working to improve the environment in areas with the highest need. I will continue to work with the Biden-Harris Administration to address these concerns and engage our community.” 

“The Velasco Incinerator Cleanup Project represents a significant step forward in the Houston Land Bank’s efforts to transform underutilized and contaminated properties into valuable community assets. We are grateful to the EPA for this funding and the strong support of this project by the local community, the City of Houston, our dedicated team and Board of Directors, and elected officials,” said Christa Stoneham, Chief Executive Officer and President of the Houston Land Bank. “With this collective support, HLB can ensure that we not only meet cleanup objectives and regulatory compliance but also align project outcomes with the community’s needs and expectations. We are committed to continuous engagement and transparency throughout this project, ensuring that our efforts lead to long-term benefits for the community.”

“The Housing and Community Development Department extends its heartfelt appreciation to the Biden administration for their invaluable assistance in the cleanup of the Velasco Incinerator site,” said Director Michael C. Nichols. “Our environment has a direct influence on our health outcomes. This long-standing hazard in the East End community has finally received the attention it deserves. Thanks to the additional support provided, residents can now rest assured that their safety and well-being are top priorities. HCD is pleased to partner with the Houston Land Bank as it formulates its revitalization strategy for this community.”

Many communities that are under economic stress, particularly those located in areas that have experienced long periods of disinvestment, lack the resources needed to initiate brownfield cleanup and redevelopment projects. As brownfield sites are transformed into community assets, they attract jobs, promote economic revitalization and transform communities into sustainable and environmentally just places.

Thanks to the historic $1.5 billion boost from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA’s Brownfields Program is helping more communities than ever before begin to address the economic, social, and environmental challenges caused by brownfields and stimulate economic opportunity, and environmental revitalization in historically overburdened communities.

EPA’s Brownfields Program advances President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative which set a goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. The Brownfields Program strives to meet this commitment and advance environmental justice and equity considerations in all aspects of its work. Approximately 86% of the MAC and RLF Supplemental program applications selected to receive funding proposed to work in areas that include disadvantaged communities.

To see the list of the FY 2024 Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup applicants selected for funding visit EPA’s FY 2024  Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup Applicants webpage.

To see the list of RLF Supplemental funding recipients visit EPA’s FY 2024  Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup Applicants webpage.

Additional Background:

EPA has selected these organizations to receive funding to address and support the reuse of brownfield sites to address the health, economic, social, and environmental challenges caused by brownfields. EPA anticipates making all the awards announced today once all legal and administrative requirements are satisfied.

EPA’s Brownfields Program began in 1995 and has provided nearly $2.7 billion in Brownfield Grants to assess and clean up contaminated properties and return blighted properties to productive reuse. Prior to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this program made approximately $60 million available each year. Thanks to the President’s historic investments in America through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA has now increased that yearly investment nearly 400 percent. More than half of the funding available for this grant cycle (approximately $160 million) comes from the historic $1.5 billion investment from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This investment has also allowed the MAC grants’ maximum award amounts to increase significantly from $500,000 to a new maximum of $5 million per award.

To see the list of the FY 2024 Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup applicants selected for funding visit EPA’s FY 2024  Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup Applicants webpage.

 

To see the list of RLF Supplemental funding recipients visit EPA’s FY 2024  Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup Applicants webpage.

 

To learn more about RLF Technical Assistance grant recipient visit EPA’s Brownfields Grow America webpage.

 

For more information on EPA’s Brownfields Program visit EPA’s Brownfields webpage.     

Connect with the Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 on Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), or visit our homepage.

###

 

Leave a Reply